Prague linguistic circle

The Prague school or Prague linguistic circle[1] was an influential[2] group of linguists, philologists and literary critics in Prague. Its proponents developed methods of structuralist literary analysis[3] and a theory of the standard language and of language cultivation during the years 19281939. The linguistic circle was founded in the Café Derby in Prague, which is also where meetings took place during its first years.[4]

The Prague School has had a significant continuing influence on linguistics and semiotics. Following the Czechoslovak coup d'état of 1948, the circle was disbanded in 1952, but the Prague School continued as a major force in linguistic functionalism (distinct from the Copenhagen school or English Firthian later Hallidean linguistics). American scholar Dell Hymes cites his 1962 paper, "The Ethnography of Speaking," as the formal introduction of Prague functionalism to American linguistic anthropology. [5] The Prague structuralists also had a significant influence on structuralist film theory, especially through the introduction of the ostensive sign.[6]


The Prague linguistic circle included the Russian émigrés Roman Jakobson, Nikolai Trubetzkoy, and Sergei Karcevskiy, as well as the famous Czech literary scholars René Wellek and Jan Mukařovský. The instigator of the circle, and its first president until his death in 1945, was the Czech linguist Vilém Mathesius.[7]

In 1929 the Circle promulgated its theses in a paper submitted to the First Congress of Slavists. "The programmatic 1929 Prague Theses, surely one of the most imposing linguistic edifices of the 20th century, incapsulated [sic] the functionalist credo."[8] In the late 20th century, English translations of the Circle's seminal works were published by the Czech linguist Josef Vachek in several collections.

Also in 1929, the group launched a journal, Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague. World War II brought an end to it. The Travaux was briefly resurrected in 1966–1971. The inaugural issue was devoted to the political science concept of center and periphery. It was resurrected yet again in 1995. The group's Czech language work is published in Slovo a slovesnost (Word and Literature).



See also


  1. Czech: Pražský lingvistický kroužek, Russian: Пражский лингвистический кружок Pražskij lingvističeskij kružok, French: Cercle linguistique de Prague.
  2. George Steiner. Linguistics and Poetics. In Extraterritorial. 1972. 137ff.
  3. "Semiotic poetics of the Prague School (Prague School)": entry in the Encyclopedia Or Contemporary Literary Theory: Approaches, Scholars, Terms, University of Toronto Press, 1993.
  4. Roman Jakobson: My Futurist Years, New York 1992, p. 86
  5. Hymes, Dell (1982). "Prague Functionalism". American Anthropologist. 84 (2): 398–399. doi:10.1525/aa.1982.84.2.02a00130.
  6. Acting and Performance in Moving Image Culture: Bodies, Screens, Renderings. p. 307
  7. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Vilém Mathesius". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  8. Luelsdorf 1983, p. xvi.
  9. Wolfgang Müller-Funk, The Architecture of Modern Culture: Towards a Narrative Cultural Theory, Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin (2012) - Google Books pg. 260
  10. Ludwig Winder - Jewish Virtual Library
  11. Glenda Abramson, Ludwig Winder - Encyclopedia of Modern Jewish Culture, Routledge, Vol 1, (2005) pgs. 956-957
  12. V. Ambros, "Prague Linguistic Circle in English: Semantic Shifts in Selected Texts and Their Consequences", Theatralia, 2014, 17(2): 148–161, esp. 155.
  13. Roman Jakobson (1933), "La scuola linguistica di Praga", La cultura 12, 633–641, esp. p. 637.
  14. Linguistics. Volume 7, Issue 53, pages 100–127.


  • Luelsdorf, Philip A. (1983). On Praguian functionalism and some extensions. In Josef Vachek, Libuše Dušková, (eds.). Praguiana: Some Basic and Less Known Aspects of The Prague Linguistic School. John Benjamins. Linguistic and literary studies in Eastern Europe; 12. pp. xi-xxx.
  • Sériot, Patrick (2014). Structure and the Whole: East, West and Non-Darwinian Biology in the Origins of Structural Linguistics. (Semiotics, Communication and Cognition 12.) Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
  • Toman, Jindřich (1995). The Magic of a Common Language: Jakobson, Mathesius, Trubetzkoy, and the Prague Linguistic Circle. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press. ISBN 0-262-20096-1
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